In early February 2009, at the height of the economic crisis, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) went to the Senate floor to condemn the proposed Recovery Act, which was still coming together. Thune, accompanied by several colorful charts, thought he’d come up with a persuasive message attacking the economic agenda.
Thune showed his colleagues a series of images intended to highlight the literal, physical size of $1 trillion if put in a pile of $100 bills. The Recovery Act was obviously the wrong solution, the Republican senator said at the time, because $1 trillion in stacked $100 bills would be 689 miles high. This, in Thune’s mind, was a powerful economic argument.
It was a striking reminder that when it came to substantive debates about policy, John Thune … well, let’s just say he probably shouldn’t be the Senate GOP’s go-to guy.
Yesterday, the far-right South Dakotan again proved his shortcomings. Thune argued on Twitter:
“Six million people risk losing their health care subsidies, yet [President Obama] continues to deny that Obamacare is bad for the American people.”
Over the course of several years, we’ve all seen and heard some pretty mind-numbing arguments in the debate over the Affordable Care Act, but Thune is really pushing the envelope here. In effect, the Republican senator is saying that the ACA’s subsidies are great, which proves that the ACA is horrible if Republicans successfully take those subsidies away.
As Thune sees it, 6 million Americans are enjoying health security right now because of Obamacare. And if Republicans leave those 6 million Americans with nothing, on purpose, treating those families as collateral damage in a political war, this will prove, in Thune’s mind, that Obama is “bad” for people.
The ACA is awful if Republicans take the ACA away from consumers. That’s the argument.
These are the words of a senator who’s either brazenly ignorant or shamelessly dishonest. I’m afraid there is no third option. Even another GOP congressman who opposes the health care law conceded Thune’s argument “makes no sense.”
I’d initially hoped that Thune wouldn’t stand by his obviously ridiculous argument, and that his office would simply say a confused intern accidentally got a hold of the senator’s Twitter password. In fact, I half-expected the tweet to be deleted by this morning to save Thune some embarrassment.
But, no, it’s still there. In fact, the GOP senator, apparently recognizing that he’d caused a stir, published a follow-up tweet soon after, whining about the Affordable Care Act’s “skyrocketing costs.”
This, too, didn’t make any substantive sense. The overall Obamacare price tag has fallen repeatedly. That’s the opposite of “skyrocketing costs.”
If Thune knows this, why would he lie? If Thune doesn’t know this, the question then becomes how could he not know this?
We’re several years into the debate over health care; federal lawmakers have had plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the basic details; and John Thune, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, still hasn’t come to grips with the most rudimentary facts?
There is, of course, a broader point to all of this. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported two weeks ago, Republicans are looking for ways to blame Democrats if Republicans take Americans health care benefits away. In reality, that’s bordering on insane, but there’s a practical electoral concern that GOP officials are facing – they risk a political backlash if they start punishing millions of families on purpose for no reason.
But if Thune’s obvious nonsense is the best the party can do along these lines, clearly the vaunted Republican Message Machine has quite a bit of work left to do.